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Science for the Win

Kirk Bentley

Science Museum

I visited the Science Museum in London and found a small team doing big things with email unlike anything I’ve seen before.

I was thrilled when the Science Museum joined the WordFly community in 2017, and I have admired their creativity, bold branding, and dedicated approach to A/B testing ever since. I was excited and a little nervous to have a couple of hours with the team. It’s a busy and complicated venue, and I couldn’t wait to see their creative process and data management plans in action. But what I found at the Science Museum was way more than just a consistent commitment to sending great email. They’ve instituted an academic, democratic, and scientific approach to email that I honestly haven’t seen anywhere else.

 

They’ve instituted an academic, democratic, and scientific approach to email that I honestly haven’t seen anywhere else.

I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the best arts marketing teams on the planet over the years. But what really struck me about the team at Science Museum was their thoughtfulness and commitment to the system they pioneered. As we sat in the lively upstairs café overlooking the attractions below, Danielle and Giulia from the marketing team explained their formula for success. As you’ll see, their approach is unique because while it makes use of data, it’s not the only element that enters into the equation. I love how they have created a humanistic approach that helps decide who sends email and why. I’m grateful they have allowed me the chance to share with you how scientists run an email program.

 

Background

The Science Museum is a bustling venue with nearly 3.2 million visitors a year. To engage their various audiences, they have a large and sophisticated email program sending over 500 emails a year, up to 20 each week. In addition, they make liberal use of triggered emails for pre- and post-event visits as well as welcome emails. They have an incredibly effective program. About 35% of their subscribers are classified as highly engaged. Since starting on WordFly in 2017, their subscriber list has grown from about 110K to where it is now at 405K. This list is dutifully segmented with 13 preference choices available at signup. I could easily just end this story here. Anyone successfully running an email program with this many moving parts is doing something right!

 

Meet the Team

Senior Marketing Officer Danielle Bain and Marketing Officer Giulia Delprato lead the email marketing program under the experienced guidance of Alison Fraser, a long-time London area arts and culture marketing expert. In addition, anywhere from 10-15 team members from various departments—including Communications, Education, Development and Shop—all use WordFly to send weekly emails.

 

Play by the Rules

With several team members, competing initiatives, and schedules to manage, everyone agreed early on to a set of email marketing program rules. They live and die by these rules.

#1. Subscribers are allowed only one non-triggered email every seven days.
#2. Data is Queen.
#3. A/B test every campaign.
#4. Campaigns are proposed and voted on by the group at standup meeting.

 

Meeting of the Minds

This amount of content, messaging, list-pulling, and decision-making would be a big hurdle for any team. To create some order from this chaos, the Science Museum took a page from the Agile development world and launched a weekly WordFly standup meeting.

Every Tuesday at 10am, all team members from each department meet to talk email for 30 minutes. Attendance is highly recommended. They review the previous week’s campaigns, chart their progress toward major business goals, and plan for the week ahead. The marketing team prints out various benchmark stats from WordFly for everyone to see. In their version of the weekly standup, each member must “pitch” their data-driven proposal for an email campaign. Proposals are ranked by data score and potential ROI. The winner is awarded the opportunity to send their campaign that week.

 

Every Tuesday at 10am, team members from each department meet to talk email for 30 minutes.
Attendance is highly recommended.

 

Their agile approach to email marketing is successful because it’s data-centric, experimental, and democratic. It brings siloed teams together on a regular basis, helping everyone understand which messages are providing value and why. Collaborating this way allows the entire organization to participate. Learning from both success and failure.

The only thing perhaps more impressive than the system they’ve designed is how they’ve stuck with it. Scheduling and attending a interdisciplinary recurring meeting for 10-15 people? They must have good donuts. Their Weekly WordFly Standup was instituted nearly two years ago and has been going strong ever since.

 

Scientific Method

Now you might be wondering exactly how one “pitches” an email campaign. It starts with a hypothesis. For example, “If we send a campaign with a 25% off discount to our VIPs one week prior to the general ticket announcement, we predict a 65% increase in tickets over last year.” A bold statement, indeed. Like any good scientific hypothesis, you then support your statement with data, reasoning, and vigorous debate. This is exactly what team members do each week in the WordFly Standup.

 

The Result?

So how does this rigorous science experiment of an email program perform? Since the Science Museum instituted their method, their open and click rates improved over 15% and their unsubscribe rate is nearly zero and of course, their subscriber list has quadrupled. Best of all, this scientific approach to email is cultivating a more engaged list of subscribers, increased revenue and improved visitor experience.

 

Open and click rates improved over 15% and their unsubscribe rate is nearly zero.

Thanks again to Alison, Giulia, and Danielle for giving me permission to share their wildly successful email program with the community. I was blown away by how organized, dedicated, and thoughtful they were about everything, I couldn’t wait to get their story out there. So, what do you think? Is your team ready for a more scientific, democratic, data-driven approach to email marketing?

By the way, if you have a great email success story, we’d love to hear it. Drop us a line and we’ll write a story about you next!